Rage 2 is the perfect example of a highly marketable game. Regardless of whether people should put too much care or pay attention to the marketing campaigns, Rage 2’s gunplay shown off in small bursts makes for a dazzling display of fun, of high-octane moments as you melt through bandits, blow up mutants and chew up wide desert roads. What is not shown is the large swaths of content that ranges from dead to dry that you have to trudge through to get to those smatterings of gunplay enjoyment, the long lead up to explosive fights.
Welcome to the future, a place that is pretty terrible. Earth got hit by a meteor, society and civilisation collapsed and some fanatics decided that forceful evolution of humanity was the only way forward. Those fools got beaten and life continued, most eking it out in isolationist fortresses. Now the big bad Authority is back, with more cybernetic gear and enhancements to kick ass. That is where you start your journey, in the wreckage of a fort laid to waste by laser fire and a walking mountain of flesh. Luckily you are the chosen one and your adoptive aunt saw all of this coming and has been training you to finish the job she started, to end the Authority. No, I am not making this up or skewing things in summation: a dead lady’s holographic recording tells you all about this master plan to get you to finish some killer system her and three other people created years ago to beat the big bad when he resurfaced. It is up to you to find these three individuals, do some quests for each one and get together what they need for their plan to work.
Rage 2 is best compared to a fire. The gunplay and ability interaction, the dodging and zipping around in combat while popping heads and splattering enemies are the hot coals, stoked to white-hot in the middle of the firepit. Then comes the story, with its wooden acting and stilted dialogue, which creates a layer of dead coals, their ash doing nothing but to clog access to oxygen for the rest of the fire. Then on top of this is a fat pile of wet deadwood – the remains of a boring paint-by-numbers open world design that appears to be pulled from a decade old open-world game – which fills the area with cloying smoke.
Rage 2, if it was without its great gunplay, would be something most players would consign to the scrapheap. The fun of moving in and out of melee range, dodging to confuse enemies and take less damage for a while before launching an enemy skyward or slam a fist into the ground, turning enemies into paste, is worthy of praise. Sadly everything else in the game comes across as generic and thoroughly average. Rage 2’s failing is how average it is. This isn’t a terrible game. It isn’t even a bad game. But it feels like it was made by committee, according to a checklist, with a few bits of writing or gunplay to tide you over so that you don’t abandon the whole rigmarole completely. The game even makes you suffer through hours of tedium and bland genericness to get the most out of the gunplay, at which point you have spent so many resources on making the assault rifle and shotgun into murder-murder kill machines that everything else looks like a downgrade. I’m sorry but if your first thought after being handed a shiny new weapon is “gee this seems fun, but weaker than what I have” then you have TOTALLY FAILED.
I’m sorry but if your first thought after being handed a shiny new weapon is “gee this seems fun, but weaker than what I have” then you have TOTALLY FAILED.
Speaking of design foibles, I also somehow managed to reach rank 9 with a character I had yet to meet because they were so far off the beaten track that I had to begrudgingly go drive over that way to start their quests off. It feels odd to be rank 9 with someone you have never met, and get rewards from them too. Another one, which I feel should be mentioned is the game’s menu systems. Besides feeling rather clunky and obtuse, there is a small pause every time you change tabs, like a mini-load is happening. It isn’t long enough to worry your console froze, but it is long enough to be annoying and considering you have a half-dozen tabs, you will experience it often.
Drive on by
Because weapons and upgrades are tied to hunting down and entering Arks, everything else starts feeling like busy work. In fact, there is very little reason to ever stop when you see mutants and bandits shooting at the side of the road as there is no reward for it. You aren’t getting XP, or rep, or money, or new guns or anything. At most, you are using the chance to blow enemies to shreds to feel that joy from the beginning of the game again. To feel the fun gunplay. Because for long stretches you won’t feel anything as you drive along boring dusty roads going to blow up another petrol station or put an end to another roadblock. You will do these things so often because the game only has a handful of activities, and almost every single one boils down to: shoot all the things here. On a rare occasion, you will have to recover something from a fallen ranger, and that will involve flipping power switches, or shooting an electrical panel to short out a door through a window before you can explore the interior. But those moments are so few and far between that unless you find the driving around and clearing of map objectives cathartic, you will eventually be looking for enjoyment in the same way that you are looking for hidden Arks.
Rage 2, on paper, sounds like a great idea. The gunplay of Doom’s id, the desert, vehicles and post-apocalypse of Mad Max’s Avalanche. But what occurs is nothing like you might have imagined. Where Doomguy smashes radios and faces of anyone who wants to throw exposition at you, Walker patiently sits through it. id’s tight gunplay mechanics feel diluted in open world areas, and only really shine in the tight-quarter arenas. Mad Max’s Magnum Opus is replaced with the talkative Phoenix, a car that only ever gets gun upgrades and nothing else, removing that loop of finding fuel, parts, improving handling and power and the story gets spread wafer-thin across 11 or so hours of going to the same few points of interest again and again, killing the same enemies again and again. Lack of variety in Rage 2 slowly suffocates the player, as you look to your guns and abilities for some kind of breath of fresh air, a change of pace or something new to look at.
Rage 2’s bright colours and big noises attempt valiantly to scream that this is something exciting and fresh, but here we are. Rage 2 might be a good way to pass the time but honestly, you will forget about it almost as soon as you put the controller down.